Rising above the difficulties of dyslexia

Demystifying Dyslexia

What you need to know:

  • Dyslexia is a neurological condition that disrupts the brain's language processing, making reading, writing, and spelling difficult.
  • According to the International Dyslexia Association, one in every 10 individuals globally has some form of dyslexia.

For many children, learning is a journey of discovery, a chance to unlock their full potential. But for some, the classroom can transform into a battleground filled with confusion and frustration.

Children with dyslexia go through a lot as the condition is often misunderstood and the children frequently labeled as slow learners or lacking in effort.

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that disrupts the brain's language processing, making reading, writing, and spelling difficult. According to the International Dyslexia Association, one in every 10 individuals globally has some form of dyslexia.

Despite affecting an estimated 10 percent of the population, dyslexia is often misunderstood and under-diagnosed in Kenya.

Nancy Munyi, the director of the Rare Gem Talent School, became a specialist in dyslexia not by choice, but by circumstance.

When her son was diagnosed with the condition in kindergarten, there were limited resources available for learners with dyslexia. This experience fueled her passion to create awareness and establish a specialised school.

"My twin sister realised her son is also dyslexic so we teamed up our effort, registered a dyslexia organisation in 2010 and in our effort and energy to create awareness, we realised that there was a huge need for a special school for children with dyslexia," Munyi told Nation.


Due to its subtle nature, dyslexia can be easily overlooked and mistaken for other learning difficulties, in the absence of proper evaluation.


Dyslexia is characterised by difficulty with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Photo credit: Pool

This was the case for Kennedy Kamau. In Kamau's case, his son's difficulty pronouncing words was initially attributed to sinusitis.

Despite his efforts to support his son through tutoring and extra classes, his son's struggles continued, leading to retention in Grade Five.

It was only after encountering social media posts about dyslexia that Kamau sought further evaluation for his son, leading to a diagnosis and a path towards appropriate support.

"That one month between the closure of school and the next year, I had done everything. I had looked for the directors, I had organised for his assessment and the assessment proved that my son is dyslexic."

Kamau says it was an absolute relief once he found that his son only needed special attention when it came to his academics.

"Every child is special, every child can make a good life for himself if you realise there is a challenge with your child, do not hesitate to go beyond the normal and try to understand your child," Kamau encourages parents.

Fathiya Ahmed, another parent, remembers the immense emotional toll dyslexia had on her son who faced academic struggles and social isolation.

Despite initial fears of autism, a diagnosis of dyslexia led to recommendations for a school with smaller class sizes and more individualised attention. However, these interventions proved insufficient in the long run.

"Then again when he was in Grade 3, he could not catch up to the rest, he was always behind.

"It was so frustrating to him, he used to cry when he was given homework because he could not understand.

"Reading was a big challenge. In fact, whenever I went home from work, thinking I would have to sit with him to do homework, it was a big challenge as he would cry the whole time," she said.

After primary school, Fathiya enrolled her son in a specialised learning institution, where his confidence and self-esteem have flourished.

Unfortunately, societal stigma surrounding dyslexia often leads to shame and secrecy, hindering access to support and perpetuating negative experiences for children.

Munyi highlights that parents may feel judged for their children's struggles, leading them to isolate their children, thus hindering their potential.

Capitalise strengths

Experts recommend encouraging children with dyslexia to participate in co-curricular activities that capitalise on their strengths.

Both Kamau and Fathiya point to their sons' achievements in areas like swimming, soccer, photography, and chess, showcasing their potential beyond academics.

Stakeholders advocate for increased training for teachers to equip them to identify dyslexia and provide appropriate support.

This includes moving away from labeling dyslexic children as 'arrogant' or 'stupid' due to misinterpretations of their behaviour, which often stems from frustration with their learning difficulties.

Furthermore, employing differentiated instruction, where lessons are tailored to individual learning styles and needs, can significantly improve the academic performance of children with dyslexia.

Munyi emphasizes the importance of identifying a child's specific area of difficulty and providing targeted support, rather than holding them back in all subjects.

While dyslexia presents challenges, it is crucial to remember that it does not define a child's potential. With early identification, access to proper support systems, and a shift in societal attitudes, individuals with dyslexia can excel in all aspects of life.